Administering medications in general practice: what do non-prescribers need to know?

02 October 2022
Volume 33 · Issue 10


Administering medicines in general practice is often complicated for non-prescribers. Allison Brindley looks at the legal and professional boundaries around this complex topic

Misunderstandings and uncertainty around the professional responsibilities and legal requirements for non-prescribing general practice nurses (GPNs) when administering medications in general practice is an ongoing issue. This article reflects on practices of the past and the influences and drivers for GPN practice, helping to explain why this remains such a difficult concept. The legal and professional boundaries are explored and summarised into understandable and relatable terms, encouraging non-prescribing GPNs to make safe and considered decisions regarding the supply and administration of medicines. The dynamics of being employed by GPs can create tension for nurses in terms of meeting the expectations of the employer while working within professional boundaries. After reading this article, GPNs should feel empowered to question prescribing practices in their place of work.

Keeping an eye on the general practice nurse (GPN) forums on social media has highlighted the uncertainty regarding what medications GPNs can and cannot give, and the legal and professional landscape around what GPNs can or cannot do remains unresolved for many. This is not just an issue for newly qualified nurses (NQNs) entering the profession but also for experienced and well-established GPNs negotiating the ever-changing landscape of practice. Students also tell me this is a problem. Both pre- and post-registration students report a lack of clarity regarding what needs to be in place to be able to safely administer medications in general practice. Every cohort mentions this, along with an array of stories regarding different practices they have observed. Just when I think I have heard it all, I hear another example where GPNs have, with the best intentions, exposed themselves to the risk of professional scrutiny and even prosecution in some cases. Professional guidance and the legislation exists, but there is difficulty in synthesising this and interpreting some of the ambiguous or difficult language. This article hopes to bring some clarity and help GPNs navigate this topic.

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